The American Thyroid Association has estimated that over 20 million US Americans suffer from some form of thyroid disorder, and 60% are totally unaware that they have it.
Women are affected 5-8 times more frequently than men, and the cause is usually never identified by the doctors. Undiagnosed thyroid conditions may lead to heart disease, osteoporosis, and infertility.
Since the thyroid gland is involved in energy metabolism, it also may affect your chances for obesity and its related consequences.
There are two primary types of thyroid disorders: hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. In hypothyroidism, there is an insufficient supply of workable hormones to keep the body functioning optimally. In hyperthyroidism, there is an overabundance of the same hormones, each wreaking havoc on physiological systems, causing them to crawl or go into overdrive.
What Are the Symptoms of Hypothyroidism?
- Unexplainable weight gain
- Extreme fatigue
- Dry skin and hair
- Anxiety and moodiness
- A feeling of being cold even when others are warm
- Trouble concentrating, sometimes referred to as “brain fog”
- Constipation, bloating, or other digestive issues
- Exacerbation of pain occasionally due to increased muscle weakness
The most common cause of hypothyroidism in the U.S. is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that can be triggered by stress, nutrient deficiencies, low immune function, and toxicity.
What Are the Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism?
- Thin, brittle hair
- Anxiety, heart palpitations
- Frequent bowel movements, not necessarily diarrhea
- Eyes may appear larger than normal or even bulging
- Unexplained weight loss
In the U.S., the number one cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease, but thyroid nodules can cause a significant overproduction of thyroid hormones as well. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks itself.
The mainstay of thyroid treatment is medication. However, there are many dietary and lifestyle habits that can contribute to thyroid disease that is within our control. Let’s look at some potential supportive treatments.
Individualize supplementation with iodine, selenium, zinc
Since the two thyroid disorders are opposite of each other, some individuals may need more iodine, and some may need less, but these are the nutrients to assess and manage. Iodine has been depleted from the soils, so supplementation programs such as the US salt iodization program are used to replete populations deficient in this mineral.
Selenium is necessary for the conversion of the inactive hormone T4 to the active hormone T3, and a deficiency is more common than expected. Selenium is found in foods such as Brazil nuts, spinach, sardines, beef, turkey, and liver. Individuals with Celiac disease may need a supplement, as they are often deficient in selenium.
Zinc and B vitamins, particularly B12, may be low in the diet especially if animal foods are not consumed. The best sources of these nutrients are animal foods, peas, asparagus, sesame seeds, flax seeds, pistachios, and mushrooms. Both zinc and B12 are necessary for optimal thyroid function.
Some research suggests the following diets may be supportive in Hashimoto’s:
Remaining in a “flight or fight “mode overtaxes your adrenals and negatively impacts your thyroid. Note that the two most common thyroid disorders are autoimmune, which can be brought on by poor stress management. Good stress management mandates the ability to control your emotions, give yourself permission to relax, engage in stress reduction activities like massage, meditation or Tai Chi, and getting a good night’s sleep.
Bisphenol-A, cigarette smoke, and certain medications can adversely affect the thyroid. If you smoke, stop. If you drink from plastics, stop. If you don’t have to take lithium or antivirals or immunosuppressant drugs, weigh the pros and cons before you decide